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Mudville: October 4, 2023 10:46 am PDT

See no Evil Empire

BY KEVIN KERNAN

Here is the bottom line with these Yankees. Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, and Aaron Boone treat the team’s fans like know-nothing ATM machines.

Their comments are absurd. They basically openly mock the fans – think of it as their little PIN number, and then more money comes their way – no matter what kind of product they put on the field.

The team strikes out 12 times against Angels starter Griffin Canning and 17 times in the game and Boone says: “We made him work hard.’’

Really, what kind of fools do you take the fans for, Aaron?

Hal (Let Them Eat Cake) Steinbrenner is so repulsed by fans caring about the team or questioning his ownership that last month he made this out-of-touch comment: “I’m a little confused this year, being the third week in June, why they’re so upset.’’

Do you get it now, Hal?

The Yankees have lost nine of 11 and four straight after Wednesday night’s 7-3 loss to the Angels, another series loss to a bad team after successive losing series to the dreadful Rockies and stumbling Cubs.

Do you think Hal is even aware the Yankees are worse now than when he made that ridiculous “I don’t care about the fans” comment?

After all, Hal happily admitted he doesn’t listen to podcasts, radio shows, “or read the papers much.’’

He does, however, read bank statements and knows the value of his franchise reaches new heights every year.

Brian Cashman treats fans in the same manner and does it by word and deed, over and over.

In the 5-1 loss to the Angels Tuesday night, Cashman’s lineup consisted of a .196 No. 3 hitter, who is also abysmal in the field and can’t stay healthy in Giancarlo Stanton; and a No. 4 hitter in Anthony Rizzo, who hasn’t hit a home run since May 20 – although he plays his home games in Yankee Stadium where all you have to do is hit a glorified popup to right field to get a home run.

That’s a period that covers 193 plate appearances. But he’s your No. 4 hitter because Brian Cashman thinks you know nothing and he knows everything; and just a reminder, Cashman passed on Freddie Freeman for Rizzo back when Freeman was a free agent.

By the way, it was Cashman who hired Dillon Lawson and implemented the organizational Hit Strikes Hard strategy. The Yankees are currently hitting .230 as a team, 29th best in baseball and since Aaron Judge got hurt, the team is batting .217. The Bronx Bombers they are no more, under Cashman’s watch.

On Tuesday night the Angels’ Patrick Sandoval dominated Yankee hitters even though Sandoval came into the outing with a 6.23 ERA over his last six starts.

Cashman’s Yankees can’t hit. Fourteen teams collected double figures in hits on Tuesday while 12 teams scored in double figures and another team scored nine runs. Yet the Yankees managed all of two hits and one run on Breakout Tuesday.

Take some pride in being a Yankee fan. Don’t settle for this and if the team struggles, which happens in baseball, tell the truth about the team.

Boone’s answer to the fans is to spout cliches: “We’re not leaving any stone unturned … There’s no quit in it.’’

Meanwhile, do the Yankees try to initiate offense with hit and runs, stolen bases, bunts, shaking up the lineup? When was the last time anyone tried a drag bunt? Try hitting the ball the other way instead of big swings all the time. Some teams have changed their hitting approach from big swing to contact hitting, but not the Yankees. The Marlins have gone to a contact-first approach with the trade for the magical Luis Arraez.

Here is my favorite stat of the year: Arraez owns 109 singles this season; the Yankees’ Josh Donaldson, another Cashman Get, owns four.

The Marlins have won three more games than the Yankees. Arizona has turned up the heat in the desert with excellent base-running; and speedy Corbin Carroll turned a strikeout into a triple on Tuesday, with a runner scoring ahead of him.

Other teams put pressure on the defense in different ways. The Yankees don’t.

And here is a big part of what is going on this season. This is no longer the Evil Empire, the nickname my old San Diego friend Larry Lucchino gave the Yankees. No one is scared of this Yankee lineup anymore – especially with Judge out with his toe injury. Pitchers are going right after the Yankee hitters.

One of the Yankees’ strengths used to be that they would work the count, battle into a deep count. They are not doing that anymore because pitchers are no longer nibbling against them like they used to. This Yankee lineup is being challenged.

The Yankees OPS since June 4 is .658.

Under Hal, Cashman, and Boone the Yankees have gone from the Evil Empire to the See No Evil Empire.

After losses you will hear lines like this from Boone: “The compete and the intent and the focus of the guys today was excellent.’’

The compete?

In a weird way the Yankees now mirror the Steinbrenner family.

George was The Boss and yes, he was over the top about winning and he let people know it. Hal doesn’t want to be anything like his father and has made that clear. The Yankees used to be all about winning. Nothing else mattered – 27 championships. Derek Jeter’s Yankees worked to be the Last Team Standing.

Hal is the anti-George and he wears it like a badge of honor, and that kind of thinking is all over the organization. Don’t dare criticize anyone. The Yankees under Hal have gone so far in that respect, these have become the No Accountability Yankees.

The See No Evil Empire Yankees.

Joe Girardi got shown the door in part because he demanded accountability from the likes of Gary Sanchez. Now you don’t dare hurt a player’s feelings in public. Don’t dare criticize anyone for poor play.

“We have to be better,’’ is about as far as Boone will go.

How about saying something like: “Volpe has to focus on making contact. Rizzo has to show some power. Stanton has to not strike out as much. Cole has the ability to go even deeper into games to help the bullpen.’’

There is no “challenge’’ in this Yankee system and it is obvious throughout the organization by how their managers react and how the players are being used; rarely are they pushed.

That’s all on Hal. That’s all on Cashman.

As for Boone, who knows if he even has a backbone and goes into meetings upset? After every loss he paints a kumbaya existence as if he is managing the local playground team – and not the most prestigious and proud organization in baseball that has won 27 World Championships (but only one since winning three in a row in 1998, 1999, and 2000 under Joe Torre).

When Cashman was recently asked about the fast-approaching trade deadline and team needs he said, “I would think every general manager’s going to respond with the ‘Pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching,’ always, regardless.’’

Yo. Cash. Your boys can’t hit.

By saying that he is openly mocking the ATM fans again because the fans know the Yankees are not scoring runs, yet Cashman wants pitching. How about both? So you want to land another Frankie (Witness Protection Plan) Montas like last year at the deadline and that’s it? Have at it.

How about a left fielder? There will be a number of them available. You don’t need to dumpster dive, you are the Yankees. It’s so weird also how the Yankees and Red Sox no longer both throw their weight around financially like they once did. Chaim Bloom is acting like he is still with the Rays while Cashman has always had this Billy Beane-thing going where he wants to show the Yankees don’t just acquire players through financial force, he wants to be like the Moneyball A’s once were. Just a reminder, the A’s haven’t won a World Series since 1989.

Moneyball was the biggest scam pulled on baseball.

As I said, Boone is a walking cliché and when asked on his @TalkinYanks segment about any second thoughts about not walking Shohei Ohtani, who tied up Monday’s game in the seventh inning with a two-run home run, the thin-skinned manager trotted out the oldest defensive line in the book, “When YOU manage the team, YOU can make that call.’’

Then Boone went on to spout about the dangerous Mickey Moniak and that Ohtani only hits home runs about 10 percent of the time. Moniak is having a terrific year, yes; but how about not letting the best player in baseball beat you and taking on the challenge of finding a way to get Moniak out. In the next night’s win Moniak got three hits, including a home run; so the Yankees and Boone in the course of two games to a team that had not won a series since June 16-18 (over the Royals no less) proved they can’t get Ohtani or Moniak out. Moniak has 11 home runs. Ohtani has 35 – so Boone’s plan made no sense.

Essentially, over and over Boone and the Yankees are saying to the fans, “Hey, the Nerds and I are so much smarter than you, so stay in your lane. Leave the thinking to us.’’

Of course, the Yankee Nerds are a big part of the problem and that has been well chronicled for years here at BallNine. Cashman relies on them and essentially has crushed the franchise, inserting Boone into power (while ironically Boone’s power consists of doing whatever Cashman and the Nerds want him to do) and telling Hal, who clearly knows nothing about baseball, just what he wants to hear.

Remember a long time ago I wrote that Aaron Boone is the most dangerous man in baseball with a lead … because of the panic Nerd style of handling a pitching staff. Even if the Yankees win that particular game he is constantly overusing the bullpen; and that eventually wears out a bullpen – and it happens year after year. Michael King owned a 1.65 ERA his first 19 games and a 6.27 ERA the last 13 games.

The Yankees Big Three don’t care about putting the best product on the field that they could – and don’t give me “they re-signed Aaron Judge.’’

They had to re-sign Judge. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t even have had a wing and a prayer to make the watered-down Rob Manfred tournament. Judge was going to get monster money wherever he went and was lured back by being named Yankee Captain because he does care about the Pinstripes (which are now the Patchstripes), but a jump to the Giants or Padres would have been interesting.

Hal Steinbrenner, Aaron Judge, Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees pose for a photo before a press conference at Yankee Stadium on December 21, 2022 in the Bronx, New York. (Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images)

By the way, it is no longer a postseason. It’s a tournament. Any team with a pulse is invited. The postseason used to be about excellence. You had to be an excellent team to make the postseason. Even Cashman has referred to it as a tournament many times and Manfred has lowered the bar around baseball in the pursuit of more TV and streaming cash. Again, the fans are being openly mocked by paying more for less.

And no doubt, if the Yankees make it as a Wild Card they will be throwing plenty of this around: “I told you so” … before they are kicked out of the tournament. And next year they’ll go back to the same game plan and the fans will flock to Tampa once again for spring training, buy their season tickets, pay outrageous amounts to park a vehicle, and the cycle will begin anew with the Big Three of Hal, Cashman, and Boone.

The PIN number may change a bit in the winter but it’s all the same tired act: “We tried to get Ohtani, he wanted to stay on the West Coast – but we believe in our team.’’

So what’s the answer for Yankee fans?

Former Yankee right-hander Phil Hughes noted on Twitter Tuesday night after the 5-1 loss: “Might be the last Yankee game I watch for a while.’’

That pretty much says it all and it might be the way for fans to cope with this ineptitude from Hal on down. Don’t watch. Don’t stream. Don’t go. Don’t pay the price of a good dinner to park your car. Inform the snake oil salesmen in charge, “if you continue to put a mediocre product on the field and continue to treat the fans like know-nothings, why would we bother paying to see that mediocre product?”

Take some pride in being a Yankee fan. Don’t settle for this and if the team struggles, which happens in baseball, tell the truth about the team.

Don’t live in a Pollyanna Nerd world.

It’s broke and you can say it’s broke. Now tell them to go fix it.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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